Letter to the Mexican President

Ciudad de México

May 22, 2020 

President of the United Mexican States

Mr. Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Distinguished Mr. President, 

Encouraged by your invitation to dialogue and your care for all of Mexico’s citizens, we the Frente ProMuseos (ForMuseums Front) have come together, as a growing organization of museum professionals, to address the difficult situation faced by our institutions today and to make the following petition for your consideration: 

It is urgent to reaffirm the role of culture in the context of the undeniable global crisis brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has affected all social, economic and health arenas. UNESCO considers culture to be essential to all human beings and a key component of sustainable development that recognizes its capacity to generate jobs and economic growth. Culture is also an important factor in the reduction of inequality by improving access to education, supporting health and wellness and aiding in efforts to protect the environment. It is fundamental to developing sustainable communities that contribute  and promote peaceful and inclusive societies. In short, culture leads to the exploration and development of our subjectivity and of critical thinking, inspiring reflection on the human condition, and is a powerful means towards emancipation. 

Mexican museums, both governmental and non-governmental, are public entities that serve society in its broadest and most inclusive sense. Our mission is to strengthen the relationship between citizenship and education as we focus on improving the quality of life of all the population through learning. Within a rich spectrum of methodologies, themes and other museum tools, our institutions function as laboratories of informal education. By making accessible to broad audiences concepts that are geographically and conceptually distant, our museums provoke aesthetic and playful experiences that encourage knowledge and the development of creativity, insights, sensations and emotions to counter passivity, as well as stimulate critical thinking and meaningful learning.

Museums are centers of life that offer varied solutions to contemporary issues, such as those related to our multicultural roots, the struggles of minorities and the right to sexual diversity. The democratic and open nature of museums fosters plurality allowing for everyone to recognize and express themselves. Mexican museums have worked to make these fundamentals a reality since the 1970s and are a reference of professionalism and good practices in Latin America. 

Our public institutions and museums act in accordance with the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2019-2024 (National Development Plan 2019-2020)–proposed by your government to guide public policy. The Plan Nacional establishes as principles of the cultural program of the Government of Mexico the values of inclusivity, equity, representation, and support of our cultural diversity, under the motto “no dejar a nadie atrás, no dejar a nadie afuera” (“no one left behind, no one left out”). To guarantee the unalienable right of all citizens to culture, with a special emphasis on the historically marginalized, is a key aim of the Plan Nacional, as well as evident in the mission of all of the nation’s museums, in whose programs are inherent the promotion of “peace, social cohesion, coexistence and spirituality.” The Plan Nacional also advocates for access of all Mexicans to culture, with a decentralized approach that fosters equality in the dispensation of cultural assets and funds and, therefore, a more equitable administration of wealth. The fair economic allocation and distribution of funds and support, throughout the entire country, is what the national cultural sector now requires to face the crisis and loss of capital generated by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has further contributed negatively to an already dire scenario of budget cuts, reduction of self-generated income and absence of granting opportunities and sponsorships.

The vast majority of museums in the country–as well as cultural workers, artists, curators and others–face substantial economic losses that consequently place at risk the right to culture of all citizens. Despite the fact that museums and independent cultural spaces participate in the activation and reactivation of local economies, through job creation and indirect economies, the current global economic crisis jeopardizes all creative industries. In an attempt to survive such a discouraging scenario, institutions have been forced to cancel educational and social programs, to break inter-institutional agreements due to a lack of resources, to reduce salaries and to vacate staff, at a time when support networks are more necessary than ever.

For the reasons stated above, the Frente ProMuseos respectfully request immediate support for all museums, cultural workers, artists, creators and autonomous cultural initiatives directly affected by the current economic crisis. Therefore, we ask of the Mexican State:

• To integrate  in the Plan de Emergencia (Emergency Plan), designed by the Executive Branch to address the current crisis, a package of economic support for museums and other cultural institutions, governmental and non-governmental.

• To postpone the project Espacio Cultural de los Pinos and Bosque de Chapultepec (Cultural Space Los Pinos and Chapultepec Park), and the construction of the proposed Pabellón de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Pavilion), in order to redirect the resources assigned for their development towards the creation of a rescue package for cultural institutions, for museums, and for the artistic community throughout the entirety of the national territory.

• To establish inter-institutional and consensual mechanisms for the selection of recipient institutions, the evaluation of projects of demonstrable need, and for monitoring the application of resources.

Additionally, the Frente ProMuseos requests new fiscal actions that alleviate tax burdens on museums, as these are institutions of public concern, eminently educational and nonprofit. These measures should include:

• exemption of entertainment taxes;

• support to renegotiate agreements with the SAT (Tax Administration Services) and the IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security);

• self-sufficiency in the disposition of box office and self-generated revenue.

We acknowledge that the present scenario is uncertain, our concerns vast, and that we currently lack sufficient distance to imagine new cultural paradigms. Nevertheless, we believe there is no better way to face the new reality that awaits us than through culture, science and art. Mr. President, we respectfully turn to you believing in your openness and commitment to social equality, convinced that you will support us, as cultural centers and art initiatives that hold as the core of our mission the urgent reconstruction of the social fabric of our country. 

As we anticipate your kindred response, please receive our best wishes for your health and wellbeing. 

Sincerely, 

the undersigned, culture professionals, creators and citizens

c.c.

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Jefa del Gobierno de la Ciudad de México (Head of Government of Mexico City) 

C. Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez, Secretario de Hacienda y Crédito Público (Secretary of the Treasury and Public Credit)

C. Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, Secretaria de Cultura Federal (Secretary of Federal Culture)

C. Susana Harp Iturribarría, Senadora de la República (Senator) 

C. Sergio Mayer Breton, Diputado Federal (Federal Representative Chamber of Deputies)

C. José Alfonso Suárez del Real, Secretario de Cultura de la Ciudad de México (Secretary of Culture of Mexico City)

C. Marina Núñez Belaspova, (Subsecretaría de Desarrollo Cultural (Undersecretary of Cultural Development)

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